Class warfare in the grocery aisle
June 5th, 2012
01:00 PM ET
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LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

Over the past year we've heard a lot about class warfare, the "Buffett Rule" and the tax code and so on. But if you want to see a blatant form of poor vs. rich, walk into a grocery store. Here we are forced to decide between what's good for our kids and what we can afford to feed them.

Ground beef that is 80/20 is fattier but cheaper than 90/10. Ground turkey breast is leaner than the other two but is usually the more expensive. And many of us can't even begin to think about free-range chicken and organic produce - food without pesticides and antibiotics that'll cost you a second mortgage in no time at all.

Recently Michelle Obama's campaign to get healthier foods into poor neighborhoods came under new scrutiny because two studies found her notion of "food deserts" - poor urban neighborhoods where access to fresh fruits and vegetables are supposedly nonexistent - doesn't quite jibe with the research. The studies have even found that there isn't a relationship between the type of food offered in neighborhoods and obesity among the children living there.

Read - Poor and fat: The real class war and Chefs with Issues: Buying food is a political act



soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Spookypaws

    As always, Mr. Granderson's articles are enlightening. This however, has been a known fact for many years and it's sad that people are JUST NOW discussing, when it's an election year. Anyone who grocery shops can see that healthy, fresh food is more expensive than processed food. And let's not forget that 'organic' labels add to the price tag as well. It is nearly impossible for a family of 4, who are financially struggling, to eat organic chicken breast and fresh peaches as opposed to chicken nuggets and canned peaches. We need to SUPPORT agriculture in our country and get more fresh food at affordable prices for everyone, so it's a natural choice for them instead of processed bits and pieces. There will be some who still choose the processed food, but it's their choice. I think most people would choose healthy non processed food if given a choice and the cost was the same.
    As a side note, this is the exact reason why after contemplating it for many years, I have switched my family to a mainly vegetarian diet. Beans, soy meat substitutes, nuts, bread crumbs, and fruits and vegetables can make a myriad of healthy meals.

    June 19, 2012 at 8:54 am | Reply
  2. youidiots

    Seems like if you read the comments, you get better info on most things....thank-you to all informed people.

    June 16, 2012 at 8:16 am | Reply
  3. kamarasune

    I just want to know when they will address the real problem with shooting up livestock with growth hormones that is in all commercial; beef, lamb, pork, poultry and dairy....

    June 15, 2012 at 12:44 am | Reply
    • Spookypaws

      I agree. There are several articles out on the web about young girls entering puberty at younger and younger ages, and most research has indicated that it is due to overexposure to hormones from MILK AND MEAT. Again, organic meat and milk is the better option, but isn't it ironic they make you pay MORE for meat and milk that has LESS chemicals?

      June 19, 2012 at 8:58 am | Reply
  4. MarkGlicker

    Oatmeal is a buck a pound. A pound will feed a family of four for breakfast. 12 oz of Kellogs cereal is $4-$5 bucks. Buy Oatmeal if you are broke, not the commercial stuff.

    June 13, 2012 at 11:27 am | Reply
  5. R Burns

    " organic produce – food without pesticides" Really? When was the last time anyone checked the FDA's list of approved pesticides for organic certification? Tops on the list: pyrethrins (chrysanthemum extract) and unprocessed petroleum products, two of the most often-cited allergens. You can't escape being poisoned by what is added to your foods, on or off the label, and many of these foods directly contribute to obesity! The cheaper the food, the more likely it will contain high amounts of these substances. Yikes. As for the percentage of fat in cheap ground beef vs higher grades, people are eating more meat these days than in the past. A 'serving" is much larger than it used to be. Why not go back to feeding the family a smaller portion of a higher grade meat? Same cost, better health. . .

    June 13, 2012 at 11:27 am | Reply
    • Thunder

      @R Burns Oh wow, thanks for the info!

      June 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Reply
  6. RJD

    First of all, not every poor person receives government aid. Keep that in mind when you all jump on your bandwagon of judgment. Second of all, why is it that the poor get blamed for all of the country's problems? National debt (because we spend SO much on the poor), obesity (because the greedy charge more for better food), etc. The ones with the money and power are the ones to blame – but they tell themselves that every "poor" person is fat and lazy and why should they help them even though they are fellow human beings and Americans – so they can buy their million dollar cars and vacation for six weeks in Tahiti and not feel guilty. And, as though being poor wasn't punishment enough for the less fortunate, less intelligent, less opportunity-given, disabled, etc., this blog is full of "eat rice and beans every day until you aren't poor anymore so you won't be fat and disgust ME...." Of course, because its all about YOU.

    June 13, 2012 at 11:18 am | Reply
    • noseitall

      Oh, shut up.

      You're lying when you say, "The ones with the money and power are the ones to blame – but they tell themselves that every "poor" person is fat and lazy..."

      Stop generalizing and trying to read people's minds. It makes you look like a jealous fool.

      The rich are paying much, much more to support the poor than you are. If they have plenty of their own money left over after paying much more to the government than you do, they can spend it on anything they want. They need no justification to not feel guilty about anything.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Reply
      • mique

        I disagree. Personally, I feel like I am unable to carry the rich anymore. I would rather help feed the poor than help buy someone a new yacht with their morally criminal activities.

        June 16, 2012 at 8:56 am | Reply
      • Thunder

        The rich pay only pay 7% more in taxes than the middle class. The money in this country held by the rich makes

        http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=213

        The top 20% in income own 85% of the wealth
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth_inequality_in_the_United_States

        We didnt have a severe loss in revenue until Reagan cut the tax rate for the rich

        June 16, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
    • rkayjay

      Excellent!

      June 15, 2012 at 4:34 am | Reply
  7. Captain P. Butters of the World

    Oh Michelle, maybe you should start giving out SEEDS to garden your own veggies. Oh your just a scammor I get it. Capt. Butters grows his own food and it tastes delicious. He don't drink soda pop like DIET COKE. Go to the store, and see what fatties use there bridge cards. I seen one lady pushing over 400lbs driving herself around in a buggie with 16 2 liters of Diet pepsi. It was disturbing. These people eat mcdonalds cuz they are loving it and could care less about their health. Btw she was a large white women, ya thats right. Even Whiteys on food stamps. while michelle is being an epic failure at life, Captain. Butters will be passing out great foods to his neighbors and sharing with the local soup kitchens feeding the block. so sick of this racist writer

    June 11, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  8. noseitall

    You don't get it, do you folks? It's never enough for people who are getting everything for free. The free cellphones with 250 minutes of "emergency time" every month wasn't enough to satisfy them.

    Now even though us working folks are having our money taken to feed the lazy, the freeloaders want organic food and only the best products. After all, it's "for the children". Right.

    Tell me, how many of you working folks grew up eating organic food and lowfat meat?

    Gimme a break.

    June 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  9. Mom of Three

    A bag of beans, and a bag of rice. Interesting? Not after a few meals. Nutritious? Yes!!!! Cheap? YES!!!! You don't need expensive meats in the first place, these two foods make the perfect protein.

    June 10, 2012 at 1:09 am | Reply
    • FesterNScab

      Your family must fart a lot! :-P

      June 10, 2012 at 6:57 am | Reply
    • Dawn

      after14 days it got really awful and i could hardly eat it

      June 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  10. This or that

    But Black people like large butts. Or has Sir Mix Alot been lying all this time?

    June 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Reply
    • Dr. Benjamin Jantzen

      Wha wha what? When will EVERYONE take responsibility for themselves instead of looking for scapegoats? Quit claiming you didn't have the information! This is 2012 – if you can only afford 20/month on groceries, buy some rice and beans – quict eating fast food, work harder to buy better food – this is capitalistic America – not Socialist China – get off your butts America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      June 13, 2012 at 9:52 am | Reply
    • Dr. Benjamin Jantzen

      Funny post about Sir Mix A Lot – He likes big butts and he cannot lie and other brothas can't deny

      June 13, 2012 at 9:53 am | Reply
  11. David Crandall

    Fat people are disgusting and irresponsible. A meal of a can of sardines and an apple is cheap, won't make you fat and has lot of nutritional value. If you want eat out, that's what you should eat. Stay away from bread, donuts and sugar!

    June 6, 2012 at 9:39 am | Reply
    • MarkGlicker

      Very well said. Beans, rice and eggs are cheap. So is oatmeal and Tuna. Enough of the excuses.

      June 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Reply
      • been there

        You two obviously haven't been there. I have beeen feeding our family of four on a budget of 450 dollars a month. That's 1.25 a meal. Sardines are nearly 2.00 a can. Oops, can't afford that apple for the sardines. Tuna? 1.25 a can. Great, as long as you don't want anything to go with it. And hey, god forbid people want stuff that doesn't come out of a can. Get your head out of your ass and face reality. I challenge you to do what I do and see how long you last.

        June 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Reply
        • Math Checker

          Erm...How did you get $1.25 / meal?

          30 days / month, $450 / month, 4 people. Amount per person per meal = 450/(30 X 4) = 450/120 = $3.75 per person per meal.

          Looks like you can afford that can of sardines.

          June 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
        • Math Checker #2

          To math checker: you forgot that there are 3 meals in a day.

          June 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
        • noseitall

          Yes, sadly, that's how it is with some people. They can do math, but have little common sense. 30 days in a month, three meals a day = 90 meals. $450 divided by 90 = $5 per meal. Divide $5 per meal by four people being fed, and you have $1.25 per person, per meal.

          June 11, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
        • MarkGlicker

          A can of tuna is $1.25. With Pasta for a buck and some chopped carrots and onions you have a nice lunch for four people. yeesh.

          June 11, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
        • Redgmac

          Here I am wallowing in self pitty, due to my financial collapse, a few years ago.I was less than 24 hours from my house being sold at auction. Been there, done that (so cliche I know), today I am working full time, able to buy the kids birthday gifts and take my family out to eat. Hang in there been there, I feel for you, unfortunately there are millions of Americans in the same situation. Don't ever let the greedy, selfish bastids, such as some of those posting on this thread, discourage you. Hopefully, one day you too can look back on these tough times and smile. My situation made me realize what is really important, my family. We are closer today because of what we went through, hopefully you can say the same.

          June 12, 2012 at 5:56 am |
        • Alex

          Guess you should have had 1 child, or better yet none. Here's a tip: Pasta. Box of pasta costs $1 on sale, stock up when it does. Pasta Sauce on sale can be $2 / jar. Stock up when you can. That $3 worth can last you 3 meals even with 4 people. Now you're under budget and can spend more on another meal. And since you stocked up that should last you awhile to have pasta 2x a week.

          When I was in college (5 years ago) I lived on $100/month grocery. You know what I did? Breakfast: Nutrigrain bar (a whole box is $2 on sale for 12 bars). That would last me an entire month since I didn't eat breakfast every day. Then I would make large amounts of pasta for a dinner / lunch combo. I made it work.

          June 12, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
        • Prettygal

          Try going vegetarian. It is cheaper, and healthier. If you combine a grain with beans or legumes, you have a complete protein. Same with dairy. Or you can combine all three. Example, you can buy rice, and dry beans ( you presoak them, and cook). Throw in whatever fresh or frozen vegetables are on sale.

          June 15, 2012 at 9:24 am |
        • learn to shop

          $450 a month sounds like a lot. you could buy a 20lb bag of rice for a few dollars and load up on frozen chicken breasts and ground beef and be set for the month on $100, $150 tops. That leaves plenty of money, about $30 a day to buy vegetables to balance everything out (by the way, $30 of vegetables a day is way too much so you'll actually be saving money).

          That's a healthy meal and I probably saved you $100-$200 a month, you're welcome!

          June 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
      • Wake Up

        You people saying things like this haven't got a real clue what it's like. Sure it's easy for you to look at your grocery store and pick out what's cheapest and say "well you poor folk should be eating this all of the time!" but I dare you to try and put it into practice. If you think the solution is so simple, go sign up for one of the hundreds of "food stamp challenges" or "hunger challenges" held in the US every year and see how far you get. Most range from a week to a month, you can only eat what you purchase with your allotted amount (comparable to a food stamp or poverty budget) and you cannot use any food you already had in the house, or accept any food from others or from work benefits or parties or such, some will allow you to use spices you already have on hand though.

        Most people who take this challenge, and this has included everyone from average workers to US senators and everyone in between, find that it is far more difficult than they expected and gain a new understanding and empathy for the plight of the poor. The thing they usually say they miss most is the caffeine, as coffee is far too expensive to purchase on 1.25 a day budget and they have to give up their starbucks daily habit to do the challenge. They almost universally find they suffer from increased hunger no matter how nutritious the meals are they are preparing, increased physical and mental fatigue, thoughts of food begin to saturate their mind daily, and greatly decreased energy, endurance and will to achieve. Many find that they cannot even concentrate very well on such diets.

        Hundreds of people take these challenges because they are trying to understand the real problem and they find that it is very difficult to live on such a meager amount of food. Lack of variety, lack of proper amounts of nutrients, lack of access and lack of cooking ability can all severely hamper a poor person's ability to function in society. There is a real, documented phenomena called "food fatigue" or "appetite fatigue" that can result from eating the same foods over and over, especially if they are bland and unappetizing (as beans, potatoes, rice, boiled eggs, oatmeal and perfectly healthy grain cereals tend to be). This can result in anything from malnutrition from lack of willingness to eat to actual death by starvation, as history has shown time and again. People with tons of grains stored up in grain silos have starved to death because they felt such unappetizing foods were only fit for livestock or sale to other countries. The depression that can set in from eating the same cheap, bland foods, no matter how nutritious they are, every day can suck the life out of anyone. Without comfort foods and variety and occasional treats, humans tend to suffer from a lack of will to eat. If you think this is nonsense, try eating a bowl of plain oatmeal, or a boiled egg and slice of plain toast, or a bowl of plain rice and beans, three meals a day every day for a month. I guarantee you will be more understanding before the first _week_ is up.

        As the variety and nutritional benefit of foods is limited for poor people (and please don't say it isn't, fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meats, and other very healthy foods are ridiculously priced right now), so is their ability to work limited. They become limited in the amount of energy they have available every day to do whatever their job is, and their work begins to suffer. You may think of a bowl of oatmeal as a nutritious, energizing breakfast, but reality shows that you'll be eagerly watching the clock for lunchtime to roll around as a result. Moreover, the poor tend to work more physically _demanding_ jobs than the well off, working in industries such as the food and construction and cleaning industries, things that require a great deal of energy to accomplish. Saying some poor guy should be able to survive an 8 hour shift of moving crates and boxes off of trucks and lifting heavy objects on a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and a bowl of beans and rice for dinner is unrealistic as compared to eating a full-course breakfast, free lunch at your job, and an expensive dinner while working a low-energy desk job. If you're a poor guy being forced to work a menial, physically intensive, self debasing job for a boss who doesn't care about anything but money, you're going to seek satisfaction in whatever way you can, and food is one of the first things people turn to when depression hits. I guarantee that dollar menu burger and fries from McDeathBurgers is going to satisfy him far more than your bowl of rice and beans, and keep his will to continue alive better even as it destroys his health. Food satisfaction _is_ important to humans' will to survive, you cannot deny this.

        Additionally, the price of even the cheaper food options has more than _doubled_ in the last few years. Eggs for example, routinely run over 2.00-2.50 a dozen whereas they used to be about 1.00 a dozen. Peanut butter, a very popular staple for the poor, has climbed enormously, with most jars now costing over twice what they used to. Milk is running 4.00 to 5.00 a gallon these days. The prices keep climbing for no real reason, and the sizes also keep getting smaller and smaller. Yogurts used to be 8 oz. and now they are all cut back to 6 oz, now they are atempting to push _4_ oz. containers on us. A pound package of bacon is now 12 ounces. Increasingly larger amounts are being shaved from nearly everything you purchase – the sauce and spread items such as mayo jars put dips and false bottoms in to make you think you're getting the same amount; the paper products such as toilet paper and paper towels call their normal sized rolls "double" now so you won't notice the price difference. Companies redesign their packaging to hide the shaved off amounts of food and products and put bright, positive messages like "NEW IMPROVED PACKAGING!" on them to distract the consumer from the real reasons for the change. Even the soda companies are doing this, they are trying to sell us all these "one liter" and "1.5 liter" bottles for the same price as the 2 liter ones used to be – while hiking the price significantly on the larger ones. It's all about GREED. Companies have all gotten too greedy, all they care about is more more more money. The consumer is no longer even a factor in business, customer satisfaction is a lost idea. At first when the gas crisis happened a few years back, the food companies all said the price hikes were temporary and would normalize when it was over, but they've only gotten higher and higher since. GREED is what is causing poverty and obesity and destroying the world. It's time for everyone to wake up and see the truth of this. The Earth provides plenty of food for all, but it is mostly being held in the hands of a few greedy, ignorant, cold hearted people who don't care whether their fellow human beings survive or not.

        June 10, 2012 at 4:55 am | Reply
        • jkflipflop

          And exactly why is it my fault you're poor again? Explain why I need to buy your food for you.

          June 14, 2012 at 11:56 am |
        • twesa

          The guy in the office job shouldn't be crapped on because he got an education and worked his butt off for his position. I am so sorry but I worked my butt off as well, to get my degree and the job I have. Yes there are crappy jobs out there, but if you don't like it, change it. There are all sorts of programs out there to help ppl achieve. Also last time I checked an apple was cheaper than a chocolate bar. Sorry but people due at some point need to take some responsibility for their lives and why they are at the point they are at.

          June 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • rkayjay

      fu

      June 15, 2012 at 4:35 am | Reply
  12. Terri Baker

    When I worked at a grocery store, I wanted to follow some of my customers home and invite myself to dinner. You could tell that some of them were very accomplished chefs. They probably wouldn't appreciate that, though.

    June 6, 2012 at 4:58 am | Reply
    • FesterNScab

      I'm a chef! Brainnzzz, oh! Inside voice slipped. Sorry.

      June 10, 2012 at 6:59 am | Reply
  13. Daniel T.

    I think that while the research may not support it, we know that access is limited in these areas with less wealth. There are less stores, less options, and less opportunity for lower income families to travel to nicer areas. That's why you can see higher prices at a store in poorer communities than you will often find in more affluent neighborhoods.

    June 5, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Reply
    • VladT

      I know that while research does not support it, Vaccines do cause autism. Sorry....wanted to apply your sense of logic and reasoning to another subject where we are "sure of something" yet the data tells otherwise

      June 6, 2012 at 7:00 am | Reply
    • Teri

      Daniel T. – I have found the opposite to be true. I work in the 'hood, but live in a fairly affluent area (upper middle class). The grocery stores where I live are outrageously priced compared to the ones near where I work. Also, in the 'hood, there are a lot of roadside vendors selling veggies and fruits. We don't have this near where I live. Oddly, the area where I work is considered a food desert, but there are 3 chain grocery stores, 2 farmer's markets, and several roadside vendors within walking distance of my office. Two more chain grocery stores, an Asian market, and two more produce stands/farmer's markets within a 3 minute cab ride. There is no excuse to go to the gas station for donuts and a candy bar.

      June 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Reply
  14. George Shrub

    Michelle is correct in that it is hard to find decent produce in most poor urban neighborhoods. That does not mean there are not Obese rich people too.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Reply
    • MarkGlicker

      So you take the bus to the market once a week.

      June 8, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  15. Truth™

    I am shocked, shocked to see that Michelle Obozo would mislead us about this.

    June 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Reply
    • No Truth™ is Fox Truth™

      I am shocked that someone with such a misleading screen name can be such troll. Oh I guess I am not.

      June 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Reply
    • Thinker

      Truth, you a real jerk.

      June 8, 2012 at 10:55 am | Reply
    • FesterNScab

      I just seen the Truth! Wow!

      June 10, 2012 at 7:00 am | Reply

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